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In-Terror Design

Like a paint swatch book, my condo remodeling project was a colorful collection of dizzying feelings and numbing emotions from which I have yet to fully recover. It all started about three years ago with the embarrassment of a peeling ceiling in the living room. No water leak-- just a vintage Chicago apartment I’d neglected to paint for way too many years. The final straw was a wisecrack by a wine-emboldened guest who’d asked how long my flaking ceiling had been afflicted with

Please note: I’ve never done any redecorating and am not handy around the home. Never have been. Never will be. That said, I think the first emotion that followed my feeling of embarrassment was fear-- the fear of starting to repaint, getting bored, and not finishing. The fear of doing a bad job and having to start over. And the fear of falling off the ladder and going boom.

fan-2Now for those who can’t eat just one peanut, you’ll understand the next feeling that invaded my nervous system: obsessiveness. What started as my simple plan to repaint the ceiling soon morphed into ‘why not also repaint all the walls, scrape 100 years of paint off all the sunroom brick, and fix up the hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchen’. Ah yes, the kitchen.

In addition to the dire need for a fresh coat of paint, my kitchen was begging for the removal of its dismal 1960’s drop ceiling with FIVE double fluorescent lights as well as the elimination of its faded brown Formica countertops. Oh, and did I forget to mention the aging appliances, stained sink, leaky faucet, and long-dead garbage disposal?

Please note: My being self-employed with an anemic remodeling budget was another reason why all of this work, or should I say, why all of the thinking about all of this work, led to my ensuing procrastination and paralysis. There were so many things to think about, all I could think about was not doing anything. And that’s exactly what I did for the next three months! Enter Natalie.

After patiently listening to my no-action story along with my A.D.D. self-diagnosis, a friend introduced me to her interior designer kitchenfriend Natalie. Fortunately, our initial consultation began to bring a degree of calm to my chaotic brain. Unfortunately, the moment she began bombarding me with her seemingly endless questions and options, my lighthearted sense of relief and wellbeing was soon replaced by a dark foreboding of dread and terror.

Immediately recognizing the symptoms of a frightened and overwhelmed client, Natalie introduced me to the simple yet ingenious concept of ‘baby steps’. “Let’s just pick one color for all the ceilings,” she said with a reassuring smile. Of course, choosing the perfect tint of white still took me another three days. The next baby step was to pick a color for the living room walls. She gave me a few ideas she thought would nicely complement the primary foci of the room: the sofa and a large oriental rug. “No rush, Blake. Just call me whenever you make up your mind.”

Too bad before Natalie left that day, she had failed to tear out the color chips she had suggested and taken the rest of the paint swatch book with her. Maybe if she had, it wouldn’t have taken me ten more days to make that single decision. And I won’t even begin to tell you how many painters I interviewed before finally pulling the trigger.

If only my picking colors and a painter had been the end of my self-doubt and consternation. During the whole ordeal I kept asking myself the same questions over and over: “Was I making the right choice?” “Should I have just painted the ceiling?” “Is there really life after decorating?” Of course, I elevated my already high level of angst by continuing to live in the apartment while the painter pretty much moved in to do all his dusty, messy work.

Just choosing a kitchen sink was enough to make my head explode: Single sink? Double? Stainless? Copper? Surface mount? Under the counter mount? Farmhouse? And then there was the faucet. Style? Finish? Two holes? Three holes? Four holes? Ahhhh!!!

roomAnd I’ll never forget my horror of picking granite for the kitchen countertops. Suffice it to say, when you’re visiting the granite warehouse and the fabricator gives you a reasonable price for granite located in rows one through three, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT stray into rows four or beyond. You see, this is where they store the granite that finally proves the existence of God—row after row of beautiful, jaw-dropping patterns and colors that are absolutely awe-inspiring. Of course, so were the prices. But even so, once you venture into this forbidden land of wonder, you will never feel the same again about your ‘reasonably-priced’ granite. Can you say, disappointment?

Another self-inflicted emotional wound revolved around my obstinacy in tracking down a specific ceiling fan with retractable blades. Despite the fact that I quickly discovered it had been discontinued several years earlier and was no longer in stock anywhere, I searched for eight more weeks on the internet until I finally found one that had been long ago forgotten in a faraway warehouse. Now that was sweet satisfaction.

So now that all the work is done and I’ve had a full year to recover, you may be wondering how do I feel? Well, once again, just like that paint swatch book, I am experiencing a colorful array feelings and emotions, some of which still include bits of residual numbness and dizziness. But now I’m also sensing the existence of happiness, buyer’s rejoice, relief, and best of all… pride.

And so what was the reaction of my wine-emboldened friend who triggered this whole condo and life-changing episode? After looking around my ‘new’ home for a few minutes, she looked up and simply said, “Nice ceiling.” Ah, yes, it was all so worth it.